GOP shows three-way split over past and future: The Note

One anti-Trump lawmaker offered a tempered assessment of the party's future.

July 25, 2022, 6:00 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

The focus on the Trump and never-Trump binary choice misses the mark when it comes to describing the state of the Republican Party -- both in describing its recent past and predicting its medium-term future.

The summer burst of Jan. 6 hearings in the House, coupled with a developing series of speeches by ambitious Republicans -- including what's expected at competing events in Washington this week -- reveal at least three discrete segments of the GOP.

Start with the large portion of the party that remains effectively under the control of Donald Trump. They are voters and candidates for whom clinging to falsehoods about the 2020 election remains a mantra and for whom perceived disloyalty to the former president is disqualifying, while Trump himself prepares for another possible run.

Then there's the much smaller and probably still shrinking ranks of never-Trump Republicans. The Jan. 6 hearings have given them recent prominence, but the ranks of those who have taken a firm stance against Trump and his lies are likely to be thinning with forced retirements, including of Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, and the possible primary defeat of Rep. Liz Cheney in Wyoming.

The part of the party that could matter the most, however, is firmly in neither camp. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis might be the two highest-profile Republicans to try to place themselves elsewhere in the GOP -- loyal to Trumpism and its main goals, yet trying to steer away from the most egregious Trump falsehoods about 2020.

Dueling conservative conferences will bring different wings of the Republican Party to Washington this week. Pence is the featured speaker at a Heritage Foundation event Monday and a Young America's Foundation gathering Tuesday; Trump will give his first post-presidential speech in Washington at the America First Agenda Summit on Tuesday.

The never-Trump cohort will likely get less visibility for now, at least until Jan. 6 hearings resume in the fall. Kinzinger on Sunday offered a tempered assessment of where the party is heading, with a sentiment more Republicans probably agree with than may say publicly.

"Trumpism isn't dying, even though Trump is becoming irrelevant," Kinzinger told ABC's Jonathan Karl on "This Week."

PHOTO: Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Ariz., July 22, 2022.
Former U.S. President Donald Trump attends a rally ahead of Arizona primary elections, in Prescott Valley, Ariz., July 22, 2022.
Rebecca Noble/Reuters

The RUNDOWN with Alisa Wiersema

David Jakubonis -- the armed man accused of trying to attack New York Rep. Lee Zeldin last week -- made his initial appearance before a magistrate on Saturday after being arrested on a federal charge of assaulting a member of Congress.

Jakubonis was previously charged with a state crime of attempted assault after he allegedly said "you're done" and came at Zeldin -- a Republican gubernatorial candidate -- during a campaign speech near Rochester, ABC News' Aaron Katersky reported.

Following the incident, which was captured on camera, the Army veteran was initially arraigned on the state charge and released on his own recognizance, though federal prosecutors said he should be detained pending a hearing Wednesday as to whether he is a dangerous flight risk, according to The Associated Press. (His attorney told The AP he should be freed.)

The situation offered Zeldin the opportunity to take a personal victory lap over New York's crime rates, which has become one of his foremost campaign priorities.

"The [U.S. attorney] arrested the person who tried stabbing me at our campaign rally. Grateful they came in to do what NY's broken pro-criminal justice system could not - uphold the rule of law. Cashless bail must be repealed & judges need discretion to set cash bail on far more crimes," Zeldin tweeted on Saturday.

The incident also appeared to spotlight a growing concern over violence aimed at lawmakers and other high-profile figures in the political sphere at home and abroad. Last month, Congress expanded the security given to Supreme Court justices and their families after an armed man was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh's home with an alleged plan to kill him.

More recently, former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was assassinated while giving a campaign speech -- a shocking attack in a country with little gun violence and a global reputation as one of the world's safest nations.

At home, the attack on Zeldin could breed more partisan resentment. On the heels of the event, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, blamed it on "the left encouraging mob violence."

"This is the result of years of demonizing cops ... And then, of course, the guy who attempts to murder the Republican candidate for governor in New York. Gets let out of jail hours later. This is nuts. This is insane," Cruz said before an audience at the Turning Point USA Summit on Friday.

Per The AP, citing court records, the suspect in Zeldin's case told authorities that he has struggled with alcoholism and anxiety, consumed whiskey and "must have checked out" during the altercation and "did not know who the speaker was."

PHOTO: Representative Lee Zeldin attends the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nov. 6, 2021.
Representative Lee Zeldin attends the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nov. 6, 2021.
Bloomberg via Getty Images, FILE

The TIP with Libby Cathey

With former President Trump and former Vice President Pence stumping for competing candidates in the Arizona governor's race over the weekend, the state's voters appeared to be caught in a proxy-battle between the two Republican heavyweights amid ongoing fallout over the 2020 election.

At a banquet-style event in Peoria with roughly 350 guests, Pence joined Gov. Doug Ducey to support Karrin Taylor Robson, a wealthy donor and former member of the Arizona Board of Regents who is widely seen as the establishment candidate. In the wake of last week's prime-time Jan. 6 hearing, Pence only mentioned Trump to tout their accomplishments together while also taking a swipe at Trump's chosen candidate in the Arizona's governor's race, Kari Lake, saying "There are those who want to make this election about the past."

Meanwhile, Trump continued to lament the 2020 election at a large rally in Prescott Valley alongside Lake, a former local news anchor turned "Ultra-MAGA mom." Lake called President Joe Biden "illegitimate" and Trump "Superman" to an energized crowd that shouted "I love yous" back to her.

The Aug. 2 primary presents a test of whether Republicans want to move forward with Trump or move on from him -- with one undecided voter telling ABC News that she wasn't swayed by Trump's endorsement but was, potentially, repelled by it.

"There's too many people that don't like him, so whoever he is sponsoring is going to have a hard time in the primary and in the general election," said Anastasia Keller, a lifelong Republican and Arizonian who supported Trump in 2020 but had relatives break off from him. "They really liked Trump and what he stood for, some of the things that he accomplished, but the mean tweets and the overall attitude -- I just don't think that he can bring the country together."

At a town hall for Lake on Saturday, it was Pence that had voters' ire for siding with Robson.

"To me, it just reiterated my disappointment in Pence," said LeAnna Perez. "I'm done with Mike Pence. He's proving who he truly is."

PHOTO: Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an event for gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson at TYR Tactical in Peoria, Ariz., July 22, 2022.
Former Vice President Mike Pence speaks during an event for gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson at TYR Tactical in Peoria, Ariz., July 22, 2022. Pence Az Rally
Patrick Breen/The Republic via USA Today Network

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

4th. That’s where New Hampshire ranks on FiveThirtyEight’s elasticity index, which is a measure of how sensitive a state is to national trends. And as FiveThirtyEight’s editor-in-chief Nate Silver writes, there’s not a whole lot of upside for Republicans right now in the Senate, but a state like New Hampshire could be potentially interesting as its voters have more of an independent streak. Read more from Nate on FiveThirtyEight’s 2022 midterm election forecast.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. "Start Here" begins Monday morning with ABC's Ginger Zee on the fast-moving wildfire near Yosemite National Park. Then, ABC's Mike Levine breaks down the Steve Bannon guilty verdict. And ABC's Patrick Reevell reports from Odesa, Ukraine, on the latest developments in the war. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • President Biden delivers virtual remarks to the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives Conference at 12:30 p.m. ET.
  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and White House COVID-19 coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha hold a briefing at 3:10 p.m. ET.
  • Former Vice President Pence will speak at the Heritage Foundation starting at 5:00 p.m. ET.
  • The Young American Foundation holds its national conference from Monday to Saturday in Washington.
  • The America First Policy Institute holds its summit Monday and Tuesday in Washington. Former President Trump will deliver the closing address for the summit.

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The Note is a daily ABC News feature that highlights the day's top stories in politics. Please check back Tuesday for the latest.

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